Law Offices of Daniel J Miller - February 2020

INYOUR DEFENSE

FEBRUARY 2020

757.517.2942 | LegalDefense.com

Don’t Mistake Burning Bridges for Fireworks

HOW CLIENT ADVOCACY REALLY LOOKS

You’ve probably seen them on TV, the bold, brash attorneys who enter a courtroom ready to tear the opposing counsel to shreds. While they might be venerated on the small screen, I can tell you from personal experience that attorneys rarely win cases because they’re loud and obnoxious, and that behavior doesn’t win them any favors. Just because an attorney isn’t always fiery in the courtroom doesn’t mean they aren’t looking out for your interests. If there’s one misconception about lawyers I hate, it’s that if they’re not shouting over the opposing counsel, they’re not advocating for their client. That couldn’t be further from the truth. As attorneys, we should absolutely be firm and stern in our defense, but I speak from experience when I say that unnecessarily hostile language won’t get attorneys, or their clients, anywhere they want to go. “If there’s one misconception about lawyers I hate, it’s that if they’re not shouting over the opposing counsel, they’re not advocating for their client. That couldn’t be further from the truth.” When it comes to interacting with the opposing counsel, I’m a firm believer in the golden rule. I always ask myself how I would like the opposing counsel to treat me in the courtroom, and I treat them the same way. You might be thinking, “Hold on

a minute. Isn’t the opposing counsel your opponent in this lawsuit? Why wouldn’t you treat them like an opponent?” True, it seems counterintuitive, but I’ve found you get a lot more bees with honey than you do with vinegar. As attorneys, it’s our job to see that justice is served, not that we pull one over on the other guy. If an attorney’s goal is to make as many enemies as they can, then they can by all means proceed to put on a fireworks show in the courtroom. But if an attorney’s goal is to advocate for their client, they’ll simply ask questions when they could argue, and remain composed when they could be aggressive. One scenario I’ve seen play out for aggressive attorneys is as follows. They start the proceedings off overly confident in their case and their client’s position. For a while, it seems like things might be going their way. They tell off the opposing counsel at every turn, sure they’ll win the case. Then,

something happens they didn’t account for, and the case falls apart. They might end up having to try and ask for a favor from the opposing counsel on behalf of their client. If you were the opposing counsel, would you be inclined to give them that favor? You don’t want an attorney who burns bridges. That’s because, ultimately, the bridges they burn are bridges you might need to cross in order to get justice for your case. So, if you ever find your case has gone to court, don’t look to the attorney who acts like a jerk during the proceedings. All they want to do is put on a show. Look beyond the fireworks for an attorney who will truly advocate for you. – Daniel J. Miller

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